Nose-to-nose kissing

In ancient Egypt there are tomb paintings of two high officials, Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep, who are portrayed embracing and touching nose-to-nose.

Both men had families of their own, but when they died they were buried together in one tomb. There is speculation about the exact meaning and interpretation of the paintings, but in Ancient Egypt the depiction of close nose-to-nose touching represented a kiss. Egyptologists disagree on what was meant by portraying this intimate moment. Some say it shows a clear example of a homosexual relationship between two married men and therefore that such a relationship was accepted in their society. Others say that they were twins, possibly even conjoined twins, and that the paintings are showing their closeness to one another in body and spirit.

There is another well-known documented story about Pharaoh Pepi II, who frequently left his palace at night to spend hours visiting his general, Sasenet. In the text from which this story comes there is one phrase which has sparked the debate about the king’s sexuality: ‘his majesty went into Sasenet’s house and did to him what his majesty desired’. This is a common form of textural embellishment to describe sex. For this reason, some scholars are convinced that the papyrus reveals King Pepi’s homosexual interests and his sexual relationship with Sasenet. Others disagree, saying that the phrase is merely alluding to Egyptian religious texts in which the sun god Râ visits Osiris in the underworld during the middle of the night. Thus, Pepi is presented in the role of Râ, using his power as the king, and the general, Sasenet, the subordinate role of Osiris. Osiris is also a God, so perhaps this is a story about a power struggle rather than a sexual liaison. Even so, ‘doing what his majesty desired’ rather than giving orders, punishing, slaying or congratulating, is open to speculation.

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